May 23, 2013 | 01:33 AM (BD Time)
23 May, 2013 Thursday
Sunshine vitamin ‘may help treat tuberculosis’
Vitamin D could help the body fight infections of deadly tuberculosis, according to doctors in London.
Nearly 1.5 million people are killed by the infection every year and there are concerns some cases are becoming untreatable. A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed patients recovered more quickly when given both the vitamin and antibiotics.
More tests would be needed before it could be given to patients routinely. The idea of using vitamin D to treat tuberculosis (TB) harks back to some of the earliest treatments for the lung infection.
Before antibiotics were discovered, TB patients were prescribed "forced sunbathing", known as heliotherapy, which increased vitamin D production.
However, the treatment disappeared when antibiotics proved successful at treating the disease. There is widespread concern about tuberculosis becoming resistant to antibiotics. The World Health Organization (WHO) says 3.4% of new cases of TB are resistant to the two main drug treatments - known as multiple drug resistant tuberculosis. That figure rises to nearly 20% for people who have been infected multiple times in their lives.
One analysis said that in some countries about half of all cases were resistant.
There is also concern about extensively drug resistant tuberculosis, which is resistant to the back-up drugs as well. The WHO says 9.4% of all drug-resistant TB is extensively drug resistant.
In this study, patients all had non-resistant TB. The researchers said adding vitamin D to treatments may be even more valuable for patients when the drugs do not work as well.
This study on 95 patients, conducted at hospitals across London, combined antibiotics with vitamin D pills.
It showed that recovery was almost two weeks faster when vitamin D was added. Patients who stuck to the regimen cleared the infection in 23 days on average, while it took patients 36 days if they were given antibiotics and a dummy sugar pill. Dr Adrian Martineau, from Queen Mary University of London, told the BBC: "This isn't going to replace antibiotics, but it may be a useful extra weapon.
"It looks promising, but we need slightly stronger evidence." Trials in more patients, as well as studies looking at the best dose and if different forms of vitamin D are better, will be needed before the vitamin could be used by doctors.
Vitamin D appears to work by calming inflammation during the infection.
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